Vision is a Powerful Tool for Association Growth

Does your association have a vision statement that reads like a “big hairy audacious goal?” Many probably don’t and you may be thinking “I hope we never get one because it sounds like a lot of work!” But a big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG, can be a valuable association membership recruitment and retention tool.

In his Harvard Business Review article, “Building Your Company’s Vision” with Jerry Porras, Jim Collins, well-respected author of Good to Great, identifies vision as one of the critical things that helps companies and nonprofit organizations succeed. Here are a few of my thoughts on why so many organizations don’t have a strong vision, along with some suggestions for overcoming these barriers to developing one.

Vision Confusion: Nonprofit organizations often confuse mission with vision. According to Collins, mission is the organization’s timeless reason for being, such as “Promoting stewardship of the earth’s resources.” Vision is something else entirely. It is “a 10-to30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. A daunting challenge that is clear and compelling, it serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line so everyone will know when it has been achieved.” For an association in 2021, that vision might be “doubling our membership by helping members navigate event challenges of the Covid era with critical perspectives, tools, training, and support.” Mission is eternal. Vision is achievable.

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